Notes on Crime and Punishment Themes

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Crime and Punishment Topic Tracking: Sacrifice/Suffering

Chapter 2

Sacrifice/Suffering 1: Marmelodov and his family endure much hardship and suffering, but it is Sonia who embodies sacrificial suffering, giving up herself to a life of prostitution to help support her family.

Chapter 4

Sacrifice/Suffering 2: From the letter, Raskolnikov concludes that Dounia is sacrificing her moral dignity to marry Pyotr Luhzin for the benefit of her family. He likens it to Christ's bearing the cross--"bitter is the ascent of Golgotha" (p.36)--and also to Sonia's sacrificial life as a prostitute in order to feed her family.

Chapter 14

Sacrifice/Suffering 3: Marmelodov and his family are tragically fated and constantly suffering. Marmelodov throws himself in front of a carriage and dies in the arms of his daughter Sonia, who has sacrificed herself to prostitution in order to feed the family. Katerina Ivanovna, ill from consumption, suffers through her husband's drinking problem while raising three little children in poverty. The three children even witness the bloody death of their father.

Chapter 19

Sacrifice/Suffering 4: In their discussion of the theory of the extraordinary man, Porfiry asks Raskolnikov what happens to the conscience of a man who commits a crime because he mistakenly thinks he is extraordinary. Raskolnikov replies ironically that such a person, if he has a conscience, will suffer for it. Raskolnikov, himself, is undergoing those same struggles.

Chapter 24

Sacrifice/Suffering 5: Raskolnikov bows down before Sonia because she represents the suffering of all of mankind. He is humbled before someone who is able to remain so pure, despite her circumstances.

Chapter 30

Sacrifice/Suffering 6: Raskolnikov unloads part of his suffering on Sonia when he confesses to her. Sonia believes that the way for Raskolnikov to become well again is to bear the penalty of his sin through suffering, even if it means imprisonment in Siberia. She is willing to bear the suffering with him, wherever he goes.

Chapter 33

Sacrifice/Suffering 7: Porfiry is quite perceptive of the psychological mind. He knows that in prision, Nikolay has been in touch with a former spiritual mentor. Porfiry thinks that Nikolay's renewed religious fervor is the reason why he gave a false confession. Nikolay is willing to undergo any kind of suffering as a form of penitence.

Chapter 38

Sacrifice/Suffering 8: Dounia discovers the truth about Raskolnikov. Like Sonia, Dounia believes that Raskolnikov must own up to his crime and suffer the consequences, whatever it may be. Dounia is troubled that Raskolnikov shows little regard for genuine, sorrowful repentance. Raskolnikov wonders why he should be willing to suffer before people who are either criminals themselves or just plain idiots. Raskolnikov wonders if suffering is truly worth what Sonia and Dounia say it is.


Sacrifice/Suffering 9: Sonia's long-suffering patience and love finally pays off in melting Raskolnikov's troubled heart. He finally falls before Sonia's love. That night, Raskolnikov thinks of ways he can repay Sonia's past sufferings. The ending suggests, however, that Raskolnikov's transformation is not going to be without continued suffering, which is another story.

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